Every Dead Thing is the first in John Connolly’s Charlie (Bird) Parker series. Bird is a former New York cop whose wife and daughter were brutally murdered while he was at the local getting drunk. He quit the force and without getting a license or anything official, starts doing a few investigative jobs. One for a bail bondsman gets him into a huge shootout with the mob. This gets him hired to find a Catherine Demeter who, like Bird, lost family to a monster–a serial killer who preyed on children.
Of course, all the time he is also thinking about and looking for the monster who murdered his family. The trail leads him to New Orleans, called their by the daughter of a woman who told him of another victim, a victim she has never seen, but whose ghost haunts the swamps. When he goes, she and son are murdered–clearly by the man who killed Bird’s family.
There is much for a mystery reader to love about Every Dead Thing. The mysteries are complex and fair. You can connect the dots with the information available to you, the readers. Connolly has an eye for detail and paints a picture with his prose so you can see it in your mind’s eye whether describing the trees and wildlife of the bayou or the bars and the people of New Orleans. The story is rich with complex and interesting characters, particularly Louis and Angel, his friends on the wrong side of the law.
However, and this is huge however, this is some grim and gruesome stuff. It took me far longer than usual to read Every Dead Thing as I would have to put it aside and read something else. I read four books while reading it because I could not take the unrelenting violence that was far too detailed. Our serial killer likes to flay people and pose them in a tableaux. It’s gross. The killer of Demeter’s sister like to torture children. It’s gross. It’s hard to take.
There is also the need to suspend disbelief that goes too far, expecting too much of us. No, I am not talking about the psychic swamp woman or the ghostly visions that Bird has. I am talking about Bird shooting people here and there and never getting arrested for it. Oh, he gets questioned but someone always vouches for him and he’s released. He leaves the scene of multiple murders and would in any normal course of events be a prime suspect…and it’s all okay. It beggars belief far more than the paranormal elements of the story.
There’s also a bit of wallowing in the gore. Connolly will never “fade to black.” Instead he goes too far the other direction, to the point of prurience. There’s a chapter describing an autopsy juxtaposed with memories of his family. There’s just too much loving detail of the unlovely elements of murder.
So here’s the thing, it’s a good, complex mystery. The writing is excellent in terms of character development and sense of place. The plot is complex. These are all great. But I don’t know if I have any yen to read another in this series. The murders and murderers are just too gruesome for me.
I received an e-galley of Every Dead Thing from the publisher through NetGalley.
- Every Dead Thing at Simon & Schuster / Atria Books
- John Connolly books at Simon & Schuster
- John Connolly author site